Bluegrass Unlimited - Frank Solivan & Dirty Kitchen

Frank Solivan & Dirty Kitchen

Fiddlemon Music 13003

Frank Solivan & Dirty Kitchen have certainly ranked among the “buzz” bluegrass bands of 2010. Fittingly, their eponymous CD presents a razor sharp, confident quartet influenced by a broad range of the last four decades of bluegrass music development.

Veteran Mike Munford’s crackling banjo draws the listener in from the kickoff of the driving lead track, “Driftin’ Apart,” one of six songs that Solivan wrote or co-wrote. Mike’s banjo work quickly meets its counterpoint in some killer resonator guitar playing by Blue Highway’s Rob Ickes, one of four special guests. “Driftin’ Apart” defines one of the band’s primary approaches: the fast modern bluegrass song. This approach repeats on several of the recording’s top tracks including Ginger Boatwright’s “Runaway Ramp,” Munford’s instrumental “Line Drive,” and another of Frank’s songs, “Tarred And Feathered,” with John Cowan on tenor.

Mandolinist and lead singer Solivan began winning fiddle contests and playing with Doug Dillard and Ginger while also playing first chair violin with the University of Alaska Symphony. The U.S. Navy Band Country Current brought him east and allowed him to become well-enough known to now front his own unit. The band also includes Stephan Custodi on standup bass and guitarist Lincoln Meyers. Solivan’s songwriting often proves standout. He writes songs that clearly are bluegrass, yet deal with contemporary themes.

The second cut on the album, John Stewart’s “July You’re A Woman,” jumps back in time to the hippiegrass of forty years ago, while Solivan’s “Together We’ll Fly” reminds me of some of the best West Coast bluegrass of the ’80s and ’90s. Another fine song from Frank, “Left Out In The Cold,” is a ripped-from-the-headlines ballad of the kind Blue Highway does so well. “Paul & Silas” from the Stanleys concludes the album with a rich a capella quartet.

Frank Solivan & Dirty Kitchen announce their arrival with authority. Their debut delivers lots of strong original material and outstanding variety without every falling into musical dilettantism. (Fiddlemon Music, 6625 Cornell Dr., Alexandria, VA 22307, AM